It sounded like this was going to be a quick and easy rescue. A friendly cat only 15 feet high -- yep, this would be routine. But then I arrived there and saw that the cat was in a very dead tree. This tree was not safe to climb, and there were no other trees close by that I could climb. Still, it should go quickly if I give the cat a ramp to walk down.
The cat's name is Gizzy, and he belongs to Kayla's family. Gizzy is a six-month old Russian Blue male cat, and he always comes inside at dark. Last night, however, he could not be found and the family worried about him. The next morning, they found him in the next-door neighbor's dead tree, and after the children failed to get him down themselves, Kayla called Animal Control who referred her to me.
I set up the ramp with difficulty. It isn't easy to even hold a heavy, 22-foot long, carpet-covered 2x4, much less maneuver it with any finesse. Fortunately, Trenden, Kayla's son, was there to help, and without his help, I don't think I could have done it. After some struggling and heavy breathing, however, we got it in just the right place. I propped the bottom end on a 6-foot step ladder that was already there so that the ramp's angle downward would be easy for Gizzy to manage. Now, all we had to do was sit back and watch Gizzy come down to us.
We waited. The family called for him. They brought his food out and shook it at the bottom of the ramp to get his focus. Gizzy made a few feeble attempts to step on the top of the ramp, but he wasn't coming down. At one point, he did step on the edge of the ramp, but it moved slightly, and I think that scared him. After that, he would lay down on the ramp, but he kept his feet to either side of it. We gave him plenty of time and patience, but he would not take that first step down.
I knew I could get my net with long extensions and reach up there to frighten him down the ramp, but I was holding off doing that except as a last resort. The risk in doing that is that I might chase him higher up the tree. There was very little left to this tree, but one branch reached straight up another 15 feet, and if Gizzy went up there, there would be nothing I could do. Unfortunately, we were now at the point that patience wasn't working, and I felt I had to pull out the net.
The net frightens every cat who sees it coming their way. So I thought if I could get Gizzy on the top of the ramp, then I could push the net toward him from behind and scare him all the way down the ramp. I lifted the net toward Gizzy, but he wasn't afraid of that net one bit. In fact, he found it pretty interesting. He sniffed it and reached out for it. Nope, nothing scary about that thing.
Well, that wasn't working, so I tried to scoop him up in the net. He was perched in the only crotch of the whole tree and was in a bowl where the trunk split into three almost-vertical stems. I could not get the net under him in that bowl, but at one point he began to climb up one of the stems. At that point, I was able to almost scoop him off the stem, but he managed to get out of the net and back down in the bowl. Fortunately, he was not particularly disturbed by this activity, so our friendly relationship was still intact.
I did not think it would work in this tree, but I felt I had no other choice but to try the elevator approach. To make an elevator, I have to throw a line over a branch above the cat and use it to pull up a carrier or some kind of container that the cat can step into. Once he steps inside, I lower him down to the ground. Simple in theory, but it requires the cat's cooperation, and it requires a branch above the cat. This tree had no other branches. There was nothing I could use to pull a carrier up so that it would be level with Gizzy. Fortunately, I had already envisioned this problem in the past and rigged a carrier in such a way that I could pull it as high as possible when suspended from the same branch the cat is on. With a door on the top side of the carrier that can be removed, then the hope is the cat will be able to jump inside from above. Of course, there is food inside the carrier for enticement.
So I began to rig the elevator. While I was setting up, Gizzy could not hold it any longer and began to pee. Poor little boy. He held it as long as he could, but he could not hold it any longer. He let it go for a very long time, and I know he must have certainly felt better after that. That is always a risk when rescuing a cat on the second day in the tree, because that is about as long as they can hold it.
I opened a can of food and placed it in the carrier with the top door removed. I even had a toy mouse inside for extra incentive. I pulled it up to him as high as I could, but it was still below him. However, he immediately took interest in the scent of that food. He really wanted that food but was hesitant to jump in. He tried putting his foot on top of the carrier in an effort to step in, but the carrier was just too far away to ease himself into it. He tried it several times, but it became clear that if he was going to get to that food, he was going to have to be bold and jump inside. It took maybe five minutes before he did indeed find that courage. He jumped inside, and I held on to give him just a few seconds to feel stable and safe. Then I lowered him to the ground. As the carrier dragged along the trunk of the tree, it tilted at one point just enough to concern him without alarming him. He stuck his head out the top of the carrier, but everything seemed to be all right, so he ducked back down to eat.
On the ground, I released him and fed him the rest of the food. He gobbled it down heartily. I was so relieved to have him down on the ground. The elevator was the last trick I had, so I don't know what else I could have done. After Gizzy finished eating, Trenden picked him up and held him a few minutes, and that is when I took this picture. Trenden helped me all along the way. He remained calm and patient, even though we were in cold, mud and standing water and had struggled with this rescue for three hours. Thank you, Trenden. Your help made this rescue possible.
There is no video of the rescue other than some boring footage of Gizzy not going down the ramp. Since I did not climb the tree, I did not have my helmet on with the helmet-mounted camera. Plus, the elevator required two hands, and I was not expecting it to work anyway. When will I learn. I wish I had video, since this is the only time I have had a successful elevator rescue.